The Magnificent September Auction 2019

September 14,2019 | 02:00 PM
G/F Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City, Philippines



166 |


Escritorio (Campaign Chest)
Mid 19th century (circa 1850)
50 1/2”x 45 1/2” x 22” (128 cm x 116 cm x 56 cm)

PHP 300,000

Barretto family, Enrique Maria Barretto y de Ycaza

          This elegant portable desk and chest of drawers in "narra"  wood, actually a campaign chest in European terms, was once the property of one of Manila's grandest gentlemen during the 1890s, Excmo Sr Don Enrique Maria Barretto y de Ycaza, founder of  "La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel."

          Yes, it is furniture that has seen history, and lots of it.  Barretto was a very rich man of his time and he circulated in the grandest social circles dominated by the richest of the rich in Manila — Ynchausti, Roxas, de Ayala, Zobel, Tuason, Legarda, Paterno, Zamora, Palanca Tan – Quien – Sen, Chuidian, Velasco Chuachengco, Limjap, et al.  Surely, there were some very private conversations between them that this desk witnessed.

          The second drawer is a drop-front desk with adequate writing space and several compartments where private matters can  be stored.  One wonders what business matters flourished or  foundered for Barretto here and what romances bloomed or  wilted for him as well.    

          When one reflects on the extraordinary life of Barretto, one  experiences the  strong colors and real adventures, excess,  heedlessness, hedonism, a life on the edge, great risks, no  half – measures.

          And this particular "escritorio" saw it all.

          Excelentisimo Senor Don Enrique Maria Barretto y de Ycaza was one of Manila's richest men in 1890.  He was heir to a 200 year – old vast shipping and trading fortune that spanned from Shanghai to London.  The Spanish community in Manila deferred to him in awe as "El Principe Negro."  Barretto was a bon vivant and he lived large in grand style.

          Coming from a lineage of business geniuses, Barretto thought that a brewery would be a lucrative business venture.  So on 30 January 1890, he sent an application to open a brewery in Manila through the  "Gobierno Civil" to the "Ministerio de Fomento" in faraway Madrid.  Just a month later on 04 March 1890, he received a royal grant to  operate a brewery for a 20 – year period.  7 months later on 29  September 1890, he inaugurated his "La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel" along Calzada de Malacanan 6 (later Calle Aviles), San Miguel district, Manila.

          Barretto was right to open a brewery.  It was a very lucrative business.   So lucrative, in fact, that they could hardly supply the demand..  

          There was a big demand for delicious "Cerveza de San Miguel" (beer) and immediate expansion was in order.  Barretto decided to form a corporation for his brewery.  On 06 June 1893, he formed a company composed of his friends who, like him, just happened to be some of the richest men in the city — Pedro Pablo Roxas, Gonzalo Tuason, Vicente Fernandez, Albino Goyenechea, Benito Legarda, and the family  of Mariano Buenaventura.  Pedro Pablo Roxas was elected general manager. 

          And those were the beginnings of the behemoth that is San Miguel Corporation today.

-Augusto Marcelino Reyes Gonzalez III

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